DAY 1: ARRIVAL / PHILIPPI – KAVALA
Arrive in Thessaloniki or Kavala airport. Transfer to the ancient city of Philippi (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Philippi was a vibrant Hellenistic city, reshaped by the Romans into a “small Rome”, and later became a center of early-Christian worship. At Philippi took place the formidable battle referred in Shakespeare’s tragedy “Julius Caesar”, but most importantly it was the first place in Europe where Christianity was preached, by Saint Paul.
It was also here that Saint Paul was imprisoned. He however managed to miraculously escape and later sent an epistle to his captors. We will also see the theatre, the forum, the prison where Saint Paul was kept, as well as other monuments that reflect the development of architecture during the Roman and Early Christian period.
Our next visit is the Baptism Site of Saint Lydia, located on Zigatis River. There Saint Paul baptized Saint Lydia, the first Christian convert in Europe and established the first Christian Church in Europe. We will have the opportunity to emerge on the same river and visit the church dedicated to her.
Afterwards, we will be transferred to Kavala (ancient Neapolis) to visit the ‘Step of Apostle Paul’, a memorial monument on the relics of an ancient pillar where Apostle Paul’s left his fist footprint on the European ground. We will continue through the old city, to Mohamed Ali square where Christian and Islamic heritages are evidently mixed. Moving onto the late-medieval Acropolis-Castle of Christoupolis (City of Christ), used successively by Byzantines and Ottomans, and which still overlooks the city.
Our next stop is on the impressive 16th century Aqueduct, of 52 meters high and consisting of 60 arches, built during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. Check-in to the hotel, dinner and overnight in Kavala.
In the afternoon you can have a walking-tour to observe the neoclassical mansions and big tobacco warehouses that evoke the memory of a distant past when a multinational (Greek, European and Jewish) wealthy bourgeoisie was dominating the city, known as the “Mecca of tobacco”.
DAY 2: KAVALA – AMPHIPOLIS – APOLLONIA – THESSALONIKI
Breakfast and check-out. We will stop on the slopes of Mountain St. Silas (named after St. Paul’s companion), where there is a stunning panoramic view of Kavala. It’s worth mentioning that Kavala honours Saint Paul as its Patron Saint. Those capable of walking will have the opportunity to experience the surviving part of 1,100 metres of the ancient Via Egnatia that goes past Kavala, and walk on the same pavestones that St. Paul and St. Silas walked.
On our way to Thessaloniki, we will visit the Archeological Site and Museum of Amphipolis. In this ancient city, St Paul lodged overnight, as part of a three-stage journey from Philippi to Thessalonica. Also, here Alexander the Great prepared for his Asiatic conquering campaigns, and later, his wife Roxanne and their small son Alexander IV were exiled and murdered.
Arrival at Thessaloniki, a city enlisted in UNESCO World Heritage List for its Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments. We will observe the 4th century Arch of Galerius (the Roman ruler who influenced Emperor Diocletian to launch the final and most formidable persecution against Christianity), and visit the nearby Rotunda; a massive 4th century AD dome embellished with high quality mosaics. Rotunda was built to be Galerius’s mausoleum but eventually was made a Christian temple dedicated to Saint George by Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor.
Our last visit will be on the Church of Saint Demetrius the Great Martyr, who is the Patron Saint of Thessalonica and was an emblematic military figure of the 4th-century Christianity. He became a martyr during the Diocletian prosecutions. The temple has been used since the 4th century as a place of Christian worship and houses stunning mosaics & frescoes and the unusual shrine (ciborium). We will also visit the Crypt underneath the Church, where Saint Demetrius had martyred and today exhibits a collection of significant Byzantine Christian artefacts. Check-in our hotel, dinner, free time and overnight in Thessaloniki.
DAY 3: THESSALONIKI
Breakfast and visit to the Museum of Byzantine Culture honored with the “Museum Award” by the Council of Europe. We will explore the rich history of Thessalonica, from the paleochristianic era (4th century AD) to the post-Byzantine era (17th century AD), admiring the exhibits that reveal the religious and social life.
We’ll visit the 15th century White Tower on the waterfront of Thessalonica, which is the emblem of the city. There we will have time for a short break and a stroll alongside the magnificent coastal road.
Our next stop is the Roman Forum, the ancient center of political and public life. A large open area surrounded by a variety of elegant and impressive buildings, displaying the financial prosperity of the city.
Afterwards, we will visit the nearby Hagia Sophia, an impressive 8th century AD domed basilica with an imposing architecture, beautiful wall paintings and an elaborate mosaic that is included as a World Heritage Site on the UNESCO list.
We will then visit the fountain of Apostle Paul, where according to tradition he stopped to be freshened before leaving the city. There we will also observe the Heptapyrgion that functioned successively as a Byzantine citadel, an Ottoman fort and an infamous prison. We will also visit the Tower of Trigonion to admire both the medieval architecture and the spectacular view of Thessalonica bay. Return to our hotel, dinner, free time, overnight in Thessaloniki.
DAY 4: VERGINA – VERIA – METEORA
Breakfast and visit at the archaeological site of Vergina (Aigai), listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. North mentioning is that the museum is built over the tombs leaving them in situ and showing the tumulus as it was before the excavations. Among many others, we will also admire the majestic tomb of Philip II (father of Alexander the Great). We will also visit the Palace, considered to be not only the biggest but, together with the Parthenon, the most significant building of classical Greece. This unique building, utterly revolutionary and avant-garde for its time, would become an archetype for all palaces in the Hellenistic world and beyond.
Moving on, we will be transferred to the city of Veria, where Saint Paul preached Christianity in the local synagogue. We will then pass from the modern synagogue, believed to be the in the same place that Saint Paul preached. Finally we ‘ll visit the Step of Apostle Paul, a monument build on the place where according to tradition Saint Paul preached in the ancient city of Vereia. Transfer to Meteora, overnight.
DAY 5: METEORA – DELPHI
Breakfast and visit Meteora, one of the most impressive and peculiar places in Greece. Meteora is a cluster of huge dark rocks, on top of which some of the most spectacularly monasteries in the Orthodox world are built; and are included in UNESCO lists of World Heritage. We will have the opportunity to visit three of the most important and historical ones, viz. Monasteries of Varlaam, Great Meteoron and St. Stephen.
After that we will visit the nearby Meteora Natural History Museum, which contains a rich collection of birds and mammals, as well as a comprehensive mushroom museum, the first of its kind in Greece. Break for lunch in Kalampaka and in the afternoon we will continue our trip towards Delfi. On the way we will visit a local market where you can taste or buy famous local products made in Thessaly, such as tsipouro (an alcoholic drink similar to ouzo). Check in at the hotel in Delfi, dinner and overnight.
DAY 6: DELPHI – HOSIOS LUKAS – ATHENS
Breakfast and visit of the archaeological site of Delphi. The Pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi, where Pithia the oracle of Apollo spoke, was the site of the omphalos, the ‘navel of the world’. Blending harmoniously with the superb landscape and charged with sacred meaning, Delphi in the 6th century B.C. was indeed the religious centre and symbol of unity of the ancient world. Afterwards, we will visit the 10th century AD Monastery of Hosios Loukas. A Byzantine art and architecture masterpiece, renowned for its uniqueness and is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Transfer to Athens, check-in to the hotel, dinner and overnight in Athens.
DAY 7: ATHENS
Today we will explore the fascinating city of Athens, a city whose deeply spiritual citizens have dedicated themselves to the Gods for over 4,500 years, building countless places of worship. We will begin our morning climbing up the sacred rock of the Acropolis, while our experienced guide uncovers the stories behind the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erectheum, the Propylae, and perhaps the most perfect piece of architecture ever built… the majestic Parthenon.
We will then ascend the Areopagus, Mars Hill, where St. Paul spoke to the Athenians who were gathered in the Ancient Agora below. St. Paul’s visit to the historic and adorned city of Athens marks one of the most challenging parts of his career as a missionary and Apostle, as he arrived alone, while Silas and Timothy remained in Macedonia.
We’ll continue on to the Panathenaic Stadium, the Temple of the Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch. We will also see the National Gardens, the Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Syntagma Square, the University of Athens, and finally the National Library. Take a walk through the enchanting Plaka and pass by some of the city’s most precious Byzantine churches afterwards. Dinner and evening time at your leisure in lively Athens.
DAY 8: ATHENS – CORINTH – ATHENS
Following our breakfast in our hotel in Athens we head towards Corinth following the steps of St. Paul! At the foothills of the Corinthian Acropolis, he lived and worked for 18 months as a tent maker while spreading the word of God. We will visit the ruins of the ancient city, walking in the same paths that he walked two thousand years ago.
Our guide will also take you to the ruins of the 6th century BC Temple of Apollo, the Fountain of Peirene, the Agora where Paul’s trial by Gallio took place and also to the famous Bema stands. Afterwards we will pass by the ancient port of Kechries, where Paul departed from to go to Ephesus and later on, we’ll marvel at the engineering feat of the Corinth Canal. Amazingly it was conceived and designed and since Paul’s time, but only realized in the late 1890s. Return to Athens, as our journey on land will be coming to an end. Dinner and overnight.
DAY 9: DAY-CRUISE TO THREE (3) ISLANDS (Aegina, Poros & Hydra)
Breakfast and transfer to the port, where we’ll take the cruise-boat and depart for a day cruise to Aegina, Poros and Hydra islands. On this cruise we will enjoy with all of our senses a gorgeous carefree day by the sea and discover the hidden secrets of those three distinctive Greek islands that almost float graciously in the aquatic paradise of the Saronic Gulf.
We’ll stay in each island as per the boat’s itinerary, have lunch on board and dance alongside the orchestra onboard. The cruise will end in the evening. Transfer to the hotel and overnight in Athens.
DAY 10: END OF TOUR
After breakfast we’ll have free time in Athens and later on transfer to the airport for our flight back home.